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UK Construction Week brings in new diversity rules after showgirls backlash

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Trade show UK Construction Week has published a new guide on equality and diversity for its exhibitors following the backlash against the use of ‘promo girls’ at last year’s event

The appearance of four female actors in ‘inappropriate’ Vegas showgirls outfits at the event, held last October at the NEC in Birmingham, provoked widespread condemnation across the industry.  

Speaking shortly after the show, Angela Dapper, a partner at Denton Corker Marshall, told the AJ: ’The use of showgirls as entertainment is not an image that we should use to represent the construction industry.

’But I don’t want to see apologies from the organisers. I want to hear the industry jump in response with a resounding “No, this is not okay.” I would hope that the construction industry would see showgirls as a mark of where we have been, not where we are at, or where we are going.’

Dapper was subsequently asked to be part of a new steering committee (see video below) which helped draw up the new rules – guidelines billed by the organisers as the ‘first time that any major trade show has set standards on diversity, including the use of promotional staff on exhibition stands’.

Nathan Garnett, director of UK Construction Week, admitted the organisers made a mistake last year. He said: ’We want the show to be lively, fun and engaging, and these measures should not be interpreted as restrictions upon that. Promoting a more diverse and inclusive image of construction is a joyful thing.

’But the fear of getting it wrong is holding the construction industry back from a frank conversation about diversity, equality and inclusion.

We got it wrong last year

‘We got it wrong last year, and faced criticism on social media.’

He added: ’No one can deny that the construction sector has more work to do in this area than most. The business case is clear, the moral case undeniable, so now is the time. It is for this reason UK Construction Week has made a commitment to change and to promote the benefits of diversity for the advantage of the whole construction sector.’

The new guide from sets out an exhibitor code of conduct, including on-stand design and themes, and the staffing of stands. The standards also cover issues such as clothing worn by promotional staff and the activities on stands.

Aaron Reid, head of sustainable procurement at Balfour Beatty, who was also on the new diversity steering committee, said: ‘The work that we are undertaking alongside UK Construction Week represents a vital shift change in accelerating cultural transformation in the industry and addressing the skills shortage, which will affect all major infrastructure and construction projects over the coming years.

‘It is essential that the industry joins together to ensure that a career is construction is considered an attractive option, and that we grow to become representative of the communities in which we operate.’

 This year’s event will take place in November.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Perhaps in a students' union committee meeting, or an AGM of The Friends of North Korea it would be possible to find a group of people who took themselves slightly more seriously than the stars in this video.

    Really! This nonsense has to stop. With an almost religious fealty to the oxymoronic mantra of, Equality, Divesity, Inclusion - Peace be upon him - the purveyors of this gospel may have to face the wrath of many thousands of ladies whose jobs are in jeopardy because of this new Puritanism.

    Cheerleaders, dancers; Chorus and show girls; the countless fair and vigorous ladies who, maybe, are paying their way through Uni; Perhaps single mums bravely trying to raise a child. Many women struggle with hardship, they do not need their lives to become any harder in order to satisfy the whims of a minority of permanently aggrieved SJW's.

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